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Nov 5, 2014

Parents Protest in St. Matthews

Things came to a head this morning in the village of Saint Matthews located on the George Price Highway. For days, the government school has been without some of its teachers so that students have had to be placed in other classes causing a disruption in flow of their lessons. There are number of contributing factors to the problem, but at the core is that the absent teachers have not been paid their salaries, in fact one claims, she has not received salary since September. Irate and concerned parents assembled at the school today looking for a solution. Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

For the past four days, five teachers assigned to the St. Matthew’s Government School located at mile thirty-six on the George Price Highway have not been in the classrooms. Two standard five classes, a standard six, an infant one and a standard one, have been without teachers in recent days. With the first term coming to an end and exams around the corner, the students are missing important lessons. The school has placed them among others in different grades to accommodate for the absence of approximately one-third of the teaching staff. According to newly installed principal at the school, Michelle Murray, the teachers have not showed up to work for several reasons, but primarily because they have not received their salaries.

 

Michelle Murray

Michelle Murray, Principal, St. Matthew’s Government School

“We are very thin as it comes to our staffing and since Friday, we have had one of our teachers for infant one who informed us that she won’t be returning because her employment is questionable. That’s coupled with the fact that a few teachers were not paid. So since Monday, we’ve had about one-third of our staff missing and parents are upset about it. So they’ve called out the media, trying to get a solution.”

 

Duane Moody

“How much is outstanding for these teachers? The salaries?”

 

Michelle Murray

“Their entire salary. As far as I….for one month. In the case of the infant one teacher, she hasn’t been paid for September and October and that’s why she finally decided that she is not returning. For the other teachers, it is for the month of October.”

 

Duane Moody

“Now we understand that in September, it was the same thing that had happened; teachers weren’t paid on time. Tell us about the concern there. is this just déjà vu?”

 

Michelle Murray

“Yeah, teachers are concerned that it’s going to be a habit or they won’t be able to meet their bills by the deadlines that they have. So of course they have reasons to be concerned as well as the children that are here because their children don’t have a constant teacher to attend to them.”

 

Laura Santos

The conundrum at the school has parents up in arms, frustrated with the quality of education that their children are receiving from the institution. Today, approximately thirty parents gathered on the school compound with posters stating their concerns and support for the teachers.

 

Laura Santos, Parent

“My daughter is in infant one, the teacher is not here because she is not getting paid. I need my daughter; all of us need our children to learn something.  They are not used to being together like that. Sixty students in one small classroom is suffocating for them. They need individual attention, they need our teachers here. The teachers need to get paid. The government has to do something about it.”

 

Duane Moody

“It’s not the teachers that you have a problem with.”

 

Laura Santos

“No we don’t have a problem with the teachers. We have a problem with the government. He needs to pay our teachers, they need their job; our children need them to be here.”

 

Neolia Ibanez

Neolia Ibanez, Parent

“I fully support the teachers. I don’t have a child without a teacher, but I have a child that is in infant one and her class is the one with sixty students. But I believe that the minister should realize that if we don’t want the kids to be out there doing mischievousness, they need to be in school. And if our government is not supporting the teachers, then we will have more killers, more robberies and other crimes going in the country because of the students not getting an education.”

 

One parent reached out to the Minister of Education, asking for the matter to be dealt with speedily because at the end of the day, it is the children who are most adversely affected by the situation at the school.

 

Mary Perez, Parent

Mary Perez

“I think Patrick Faber really have to get pan his foot and try to pay the teachers because this school dah wah very good school. And this weh di happen di make the school di look like Patrick Faber just noh care. So he have to get on his foot, come pay the teachers because BJAT…children in standard three get BJAT. Children ina standard six have to get ready for P.S.E. So Patrick Faber, please come and pay the teachers.”

 

But there are more questions than answers. Today is the fifth and the teachers have still not been paid including Principal Murray, who says that while she has not received any correspondence on the status of their salaries, she has to meet commitments as the head of the school.

 

Michelle Murray

“We’ve been informed that some appraisals that were outstanding were not submitted in time. In the case of maybe four out of the five teachers, that is the case. Maybe one of them, I’m not sure if that is the case for that person. Like I said, it is the combination of the salaries and the very limited staffing. We’ve also applied for additional staffing and the general manager has informed me that he is working on it. But I guess it is just not working fast enough and everything just came together at the same time.  As the head of the school, I have been trying to show up and try to make things run smoothly and try to put classes together where I can. In terms of the salary not being in yet, I need it just like everybody else and I am praying that it is resolved sooner than later.”

 

According to the parents, if the issue is not resolved in the days to come, they will make their way to the office of the Ministry of Education. Duane Moody for News Five.

 

Late this evening, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports issued a statement confirming that three teachers from the St. Matthew’s Government School were late in receiving salaries for the month of October 2014. The release says that this has occurred for two reasons. One, because the Performance Appraisals of the teachers were untimely submitted from the Local Manager to the General Office and could not meet the Teaching Service Commission’s deadline for submission and subsequent approval. In the case of Principal Michelle Murray, she was delayed in the timely submission of the ‘Employment Form’ which was necessary to be forwarded to the Ministry of Finance for the processing of salary. The release ends by confirming that all outstanding salaries were paid by the end of the day. 

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1 Response for “Parents Protest in St. Matthews”

  1. Louisville,Ky. says:

    Do you see the difference between Hispanic Belizean parents and Black Belizean parents like mi self? If this same situation had happened say, on the south side of the City, it is highly unlikely that the parents would have taken such a stand and demand better conditions for their children.
    To the contrary, what we have seen are the end result of the lack of education, hence marginalization and ultimately a life of crime. Then our permissive parents of young violent criminals, swearing up and down on national TV, that their child is innocent.
    Yeah, MY people!!

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